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Sustainable Development

Sustainable development is a philosophy of resource consumption that believes that it is best to conserve and preserve for future generations while at the same time meeting current human needs. This term was first used in the United Nation’s Brundtland Commission in 1983 that was chaired Gro Harlem Brundtland, the Prime Minister of Norway. Sustainable development is also concerned with the human degradation of natural systems and the relationship of this process to the future social and economic challenges facing humans. Research in sustainable development has expanded greatly since the Brundtland Commission.  Further, many governments and private companies now apply the principles of sustainable development to their bottom line.

Photo: Water.org

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Vertical farming Last Updated on 2014-04-02 15:58:12 The advent of agriculture ushered in an unprecedented increase in the human population and their domesticated animals. Farming catalyzed the transformation of hunter-gatherers into urban dwellers. Today, over 800 million hectares is committed to agriculture, or about 38% of the total landmass of the Earth. Farming has re-arranged the landscape in favor of cultivated fields and herds of cattle, and has occurred at the expense of natural ecozones, reducing most of them to fragmented, semi-functional units, while completely eliminating others. Undeniably, a reliable food supply has allowed for a healthier life style for most of the civilized world, while the very act of farming has created new health hazards. For example, the transmission of numerous infectious disease agents - avian influenza, rabies, yellow fever, dengue fever, malaria, trypanosomiasis, hookworm, schistosomiasis... More »
Human population explosion Last Updated on 2014-02-26 17:23:15   Approximately 7.2 billion humans inhabited the Earth in year 2013. By comparison, there might be 500,000 elephants of different kinds, 200,000 chimpanzees, 100,000 gorillas, 20,000 polar bears, 3,000 tigers, 2,000 giant pandas and 200 California condors. Notably, the human population has grown about ten-fold over the past 300 years and nearly four-fold in just the last century. This monumental historical development has profoundly changed the relationship of our species to its natural support systems and has greatly intensified our environmental impact, particularly regarding species extinctions. Equally amazing are the signs that, in our generation, the human population explosion is abating (Figure 1; note that, here and below, many of the values given are estimates and, after the year 2005, projections). Our numbers are expected to rise by another 50%... More »
Indicators of sustainable development Last Updated on 2013-10-22 00:10:20 Indicators attempt to convey a broader image than the underlying statistics would suggest. For instance, the average life expectancy of an infant is usually taken to indicate the public health of a population. The purpose of selecting one or more indicators for describing a broader subject is to reduce information overload for data users. The strength and weakness of indicators lie in their selection, which facilitates decision-making but also opens the door to data manipulation. The alternative is aggregation of statistics and indicators into compound indices. Aggregation methods include the calculation of weighted or unweighted averages, summation in accounts and balances and mathematical reduction of correlated indicators by factor analysis. Indicator lists of varying length seek to capture the different – economic, environmental, social and institutional –... More »
Chesapeake Bay oyster depletion Last Updated on 2013-10-05 01:13:04 Chesapeake Bay oyster depletion has occurred significantly in the period 1960 to 2010. This depletion is caused by a number of factors, including water quality, disease and over harvesting. The native oyster to the Chesapeake Bay and all Atlantic Coast regions is the American or Eastern Oyster Crassostrea virginica. The Bay's ecological conditions are ideal for  oysters, and the oyster fishery was at one time the Bay's most commercially viable enterprises. However, in the last fifty years the oyster population has been devastated. Maryland once had roughly 200,000 acres of oyster reefs; in 2010 it has about 36,000 such reefs. In pre-colonial times, oysters filtered the entirety of the Chesapeake Bay in approximately 3.3 days; by 1988 this time had increased to 325 days. The oyster harvest's gross value has decreased 88% from 1982 to 2007. Today there are fewer... More »
Herman Daly Festschrift: Toward a sustainable and desirable future: a 30 year collaboration with Herman Daly Last Updated on 2013-10-03 22:57:59 This chapter is the story of my 30 year collaboration and friendship with Herman Daly, from our early days together at LSU, the formation of the International Society for Ecological Economics (ISEE) and the journal Ecological Economics, our time together in Maryland while he was at he World Bank and I was at the University of Maryland, and subsequently while we were together at the University of Maryland, and up to the present. The story describes our joint quest to create a more sustainable and desirable society by understanding and managing our world as an integrated whole and acknowledging humans’ role as a part of the ecological systems that support them. Understanding the complex linkages between ecological and economic systems and reinventing economics as a life science are topics that we both pursued, separately and together. We coined the term “natural... More »